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Supreme Court decision on right to strike is a victory for all workers

OPSEU congratulates the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU) and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour on their recent win before the Supreme Court of Canada.  On January 30, the Court released its decision in Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v Saskatchewan, concerning the scope of the right to strike. 

The Supreme Court determined that workers have a constitutional right to strike that is an “indispensable component,” of their right to engage in meaningful collective bargaining.  Following this decision, the right to strike is a fundamental freedom, enshrined and protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is good news for all Canadian workers. We are stronger today, and will use this outcome to ensure our collective strength continues to protect and improve the lives of working people,” said OPSEU President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

The decision includes a detailed discussion of the constitutional requirements that are necessary to lawfully designate public sector workers who are not permitted to strike because they provide “essential services.”. Notably, the Court defined a narrow scope to work that is essential and identified binding arbitration as a legitimate alternative to strikes, one that is necessary to resolve certain bargaining disputes.

OPSEU is reviewing the decision, and will assess in the coming days how it applies to collective bargaining in the Ontario Public Service and in future bargaining rounds where essential services are contemplated. Essential services bargaining is currently underway in the OPS. OPSEU represents approximately 35,000 employees in the Ontario Public Service.

“This decision reinforces the importance of labour rights. Now it’s time to move forward and put them into action. Be assured that we will hold the government accountable,” said Thomas.

For more information:
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President, OPSEU: 1-800-268-7376